Rep. Trey Radel pleads guilty to cocaine possession

Radel, a Florida Congressman, was caught buying cocaine in Dupont Circle in October. Photo: House of Representatives

(WJLA) - Florida Rep. Trey Radel pleaded guilty Wednesday to a misdemeanor count of cocaine possession.

The first-term Florida congressman was caught in a sting buying cocaine near Dupont Circle in October.

A D.C. Superior Court judge sentenced Radel, 37, to a year of supervised probation and a $250 fine. The maximum penalty he faced in connection to the charge was 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

During his court appearance, the judge explicitly asked Radel, R-Fla., what he thought he was buying; a question the Congressman simply responded, "A drug. Cocaine."

Radel's attorney says that he plans to return to Florida to seek inpatient treatment for substance abuse.

Radel, who was elected last year to represent a portion of southwest Florida that includes Naples and Fort Myers, was caught Oct. 29 in a "buy and bust" operation by federal law enforcement agents.

According to charging documents, law enforcement began investigating the Congressman after they received numerous tips that he had, on several occasions, bought and used cocaine.

On Oct. 29, an undercover police officer and a friend met Radel in Dupont Circle, where Radel invited both of them back to his apartment to use the drug. They declined, but the undercover officer told Radel that he had cocaine to sell him.

After a brief discussion, Radel bought 3.5 grams of cocaine for $260. Shortly after the purchase, federal agents approached him and told him that he had been caught.

Radel was never arrested, but he was charged that night with misdemeanor cocaine possession. During a visit to his apartment with agents, he admitted to buying the cocaine and turned over another vial of the drug that he had in his home.

The Congressman apologized in a statement Tuesday, saying that he had let down his family, friends and constituents.

"I know I have a problem and will do whatever is necessary to overcome it, hopefully setting an example for others struggling with this disease," he said in his statement.

His attorney says that Radel has already been involved in outpatient treatment for substance abuse in Washington.

This is Radel's first offense, so if he stays out of trouble and completes treatment, the charge against him will be dismissed. While many of his colleagues are not commenting, at least one group, the Florida Democratic Party, has called him an "embarrassment" to the state and said he should "resign immediately."